Retail theory: two vignettes

1. We’re at a coffeeshop, and I’ve just ordered. The nice lady behind the counter gives me a total. Steve says, “Wait, I’m going to order too!”

Nice lady looks slightly sheepish, takes his order, and then says, “I should have asked if you were together, but you know, I’ve found that when I ask, it actually often creates a really awkward situation for people — like, they haven’t thought about it, but once I ask, one of them feels like they ought to pay for them both, and then they’re all flustered — so anyway, lately I just don’t ask.”

Which would be a fascinating observation of social dynamics in any case, but it was particularly so because I’ve been filling my life with Thomas Hine‘s work. One of the phenomena he writes about is what a tense moment the point-of-purchase is: the buyer feels judged by the seller; there’s concern about spending too much or too little; if the seller is rude or even simply disinterested, the buyer may feel regret and remorse, etc.

2. A girl asked me, “Okay, you want to know how to pick a graphic novel?”


“If the cover is cute, and with, like, a cool font, then you look inside and see, you know, if the cartooning is good. And if it’s not, well, you can read the back and see if the story sounds like it might be kind of good, and then you might read it anyway.”

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